Thursday, 17 March 2016

This is (possibly) the greatest "read out loud" children's book in the world! - a ReadItDaddy Editorial

This week's editorial is actually a sneaky excuse to re-review a book that was a Book of the Week winner way back in 2012.

The reasons we wanted to trumpet about this book all over again are numerous but there's one very important reason why even now, some four years on and with Charlotte rapidly moving on from picture books and moving towards more independent reading on her own, we just cannot get enough of Rebecca Patterson's sublime "My Big Shouting Day".

It is, without a doubt, the greatest children's book in the world to read out loud.

Loud being the operative word here, because Rebecca's acute observations of toddler behaviour are brutally spot on. Bella, the little girl in this story, is like a mad ogre on the rampage. Waking up one morning and definitely getting out of bed the wrong side, Bella proceeds to spend the entire day like a seething ball of rage.

Bella is having what we parents often politely describe as "A mare of a day"
Nothing is right for Bella, everything is wrong. Her food is wrong. Her little baby brother's seemingly innocent behaviour is wrong. Shoes are wrong. Going shopping? WRONG! Bella makes no bones about telling the entire world AS LOUDLY AS POSSIBLE just how wrong everything is.

There are so many genius observations in this that you almost want to cuddle the book and cuddle Rebecca for recognising all the things that parents put up with when their toddlers are on the rampage. Mum in the story somehow (mostly) remains an ocean of calm, quietly and patiently dealing with Bella's behaviour. Bob (probably the most adorable younger sibling in children's picture book history) seems completely bemused by Bella's behaviour, an innocent bystander wondering just what all the fuss is about.

Other peripheral characters are also rather amusingly drawn into the story as Bella's boiling point is swiftly reached and we get to one of the greatest spreads in the book...

This is the point where grandparents usually make a helpful comment like "Ooh, someone's tired!" - NO KIDDING!
I love reading books out loud to Charlotte, and we read this one an awful lot. I just can't help it - as a piece of performance art, stepping into Bella's shoes (assuming you can find them after she's thrown them off in disgust) is cathartic and soothing. Getting just the right balance of shoutiness and anger into your reading is ridiculous fun, and of course it helps serve as a bit of a guilt trip for your children if they suddenly recognise that at times, they are Bella and they have big shouting days of their own (Charlotte does virtually every saturday morning at the merest mention of going out for the day, or at any time piano practice or maths homework is mentioned).

Rebecca followed up "My Big Shouting Day" with another book featuring Bella ("My Busy Being Bella Day") and has written many other children's books that are brilliant and well observed. But for us, "My Big Shouting Day" is that perfect example of a children's book that just works on so many levels that you just can't help - well - shouting about it!

"My Big Shouting Day" by Rebecca Patterson is published by Jonathan Cape Picture Books.